Back when we lived in the States, often times Feyma and I would go grocery shopping together. I have, pretty much ever since we have been married, been self employed and worked from our house, so my schedule is flexible. With having a very flexible work schedule, we just enjoyed doing the shopping together.
Naturally, when we moved to the Philippines, we kept up our practice and shopped for groceries together. I quickly found, as did Feyma, that grocery shopping in the Philippines was a bit of a different experience, with a lot more hassles (sorry, out of stock, sir!) than what we were used to. After a while, Feyma encouraged me to just not go with her any longer when it was grocery shopping time.
I felt pretty good about this, as the hassles were just way too many, so just staying home, or going elsewhere, was a better option for me.
One thing that used to happen when we shopped together, though, was so common, and yet really got under my skin.
Often times, when the cashier would ring up the groceries, and give us the total bill, I would get the money from my wallet and give it to her. She would then get our change from the cash register, and proceed to give the change to Feyma. I always kind of felt funny standing there waiting for my change and seeing it given to somebody else!
A lot of couples these days keep their money separate. I mean, the wife works and has her own bank account. The husband has his own financial identity. Feyma and my marriage has always been more traditional. What I earn is “ours” and what she earns is “ours”. There is nothing like “this money is mine and that money is yours.” Our bank accounts are joint accounts, I do not have an accounts in my name only, nor does she. Still, though, when you are at the cash register of a store and you give the money, it is expected that any change due will be given to you, not somebody else. I mean, for all the cashier knows, Feyma might be my sister in law, or even my employee, right? So, I never understood it when I would pay, yet my change was given to Feyma!
In talking with other foreigners who live here, they have relayed the same experience to me, and they are as puzzled as I am about it.
My feeling is that the reason for this is because the cashier may be shy to interact with the foreigner, and it just feels better for her to give the money to the Filipina, thus avoiding having a direct interaction with the foreign husband. Still, though, it would seem that her job would be to give change to the person who gave her the money, don’t you think?
In fact, further along these lines, I have found, and other expats have confirmed the same thing, that if I go out with Feyma anywhere, people tend to talk to Feyma and ignore me. On the other hand, if I go out alone, people are very friendly to me, and I can have very nice conversations with them. This is especially true since I learned to speak Bisaya, if I say a few words in Bisaya to somebody that I encounter, they really break loose and talk very openly with me. But, if I am with Feyma, they remain very reserved with me. Strange, don’t you think? But, as I said, many other foreigners living here have told me of the exact same experience.